Why Policymakers Should Rejoice at News of Beyoncé’s Pregnancy
With out of wedlock births soaring in black America the singer could set a new standard
So some of you may have heard that thanks to a lady named Irene I’ve been slightly distracted by having to evacuate my home so I’m just now catching up on the latest celebrity baby news. Normally I find the news that a celebrity I’ve never met is having a child about as interesting as news that any stranger that I’ve never met and will probably never meet, is having one. But when I found out that Beyonce Knowles is expecting I was actually happy to hear it, and not because I’m one of her many devoted fans. (Before they all gang up on me let me say for the record that I wouldn’t call myself a non-fan, but musically speaking I’m more of a Stevie Wonder and Stevie Nicks kind of gal, although I do have a Jay-Z song or two on my ipod.) But I was happy to hear the news of Beyonce’s pregnancy because fans of hip-hop will finally have two high-profile role models who are having a child within a committed, financially stable relationship, and not just a relationship, a marriage.
We’ve all heard the statistics, but they bear repeating. In the last ten years the number of children born out of wedlock has skyrocketed by 25 percent. Now, nearly 40 percent of kids are born to single mothers and among African-Americans the number is higher than 70 percent. And contrary to the myth the majority of these kids are not being raised in the luxury and security that Angelina Jolie’s kids are or any other celebrity who makes single parenthood look easy and glamorous. What we often don’t see behind the glamour are the nannies, maids and in-home tutors that few parents, particularly single parents, can afford. (And in Jolie’s case she now has Brad Pitt as a life partner, a luxury in itself—in more ways than one.)
The reality for a significant number of children born to unwed parents remains poverty, particularly for children of color. (For the record, my mom was once one of these single moms of color doing the best that she could and a pretty good job I might add.)
Despite this being the reality, countless celebrities continue to help perpetuate the notion that having children out of wedlock is an ideal to aspire to. After all, would Bristol Palin have been selected for “Dancing with the Stars,” were she just another college student somewhere with no photogenic baby in tow?
Among certain celebrities of color having multiple children out of wedlock appears to have become a status symbol among the men and a viable career path among the women. From what I have been able to gather almost none of the “cast members” of the reality show “Basketball Wives” are wives at all but women who have managed to make a comfortable living for themselves having children with professional athletes, while P. Diddy (at least I think that’s the moniker he’s going by these days) has at least five children by three different women, and the rapper Lil’ Wayne has four children by four different women. Even if they are financially supporting all of their children (and I have heard nothing to suggest otherwise), do children emotionally know the difference between an absentee father they rarely see, who sends a check and an absentee father they rarely see who doesn’t? While I applaud both men for not making their kids statistics in the financial sense, will their children grow up understanding the importance of a father sticking around to be involved in raising a child if they never saw their own father do the same?
Furthermore the message they are sending to their legion of fans — many of whom may not have many role models when it comes to financial success in their own neighborhoods — is why aspire to college, or a job or a career when you can have a baby with a rapper and be set for life?
Which is why I’m excited for the news of Beyonce’s pregnancy. She is sending a message to girls everywhere, particularly girls of color who may feel like they don’t have a lot of options, that you can earn your own money, enter a relationship with a man because you want to not because you financially need to, and when he’s shown you he’s deserving, you can give him the privilege of making a lifetime commitment to you and then you will give him the gift of a child. Not only when you both feel ready to do it but when you know you’re both ready to be the best parents you can be.